All the Good Feelings In the World in One
It could only happen at a place called Reality Farms. A
genuine 500cc Kawasaki H1R roadracer was transformed into a street racer.
The result? Well, all those fellows who have just built cafe racers out of street bikes can start crying tears of envy now.
It is the stuff from which daydreams are spun. A genuine roadracer built into a street machine- it's the kind of idea that makes most sense when minds frolic along orange and magenta clouds. A streetable Kawasaki roadracer would be the perfect motorcycle for the fellow that commutes to work daily in a McLaren-Chevy. The clear air of reality dissolves such fantasies, and for good reasons. Roadracers are single-purpose tools, those things that make good racers do not necessarily make good street machines; and few enthusiasts have the resources to re-engineer a racer. No wonder, then, that most roadburners are tuned-up street machines rather than cooled-out racers. It's so much more sensible. Unless you happen to have a Kawasaki H1R lying about. Which Chip Furlong did.
Furlong's Kawasaki 500 was a holdover from his days of racing past. With the blooming of the 750cc H2R Kawasaki, the smaller version became something of an orphan and there's hardly a brisk market in has-been hardware. The proprietor of both Reality Farms and Reality Motorcycle Repair (outside beautiful downtown Allentown, New Jersey), Furlong had the resources to recast his H1R into an ultimate cafe racer. Such conversions, in the normal course of human fumbling, began with grand designs and terminate in a miserable patchwork of make-shift assemblages. But where others might have jerry-rigged, Furlong sought final solutions, made tidy installations, and meshed standard parts neatly with racing pieces.
The aluminum alloy Team Hansen type gas tank no longer carries the jet-fill apparatus on its side, a plexiglass window has been substituted. Chopper-type sidestand, when retracted won't ground.
However antiseptic the craftsmanship and reasonable the compromises, his creation is neither a boulevard pussycat nor a long-distance hummer. Imagine having a joint-seizure in the middle of a deep-knee bend; that's the riding position. Try riding on a square wheel buckboard, that's the seating comfort. Imagine being locked into a closet and listening to stereo sounds of baby rattles and motocross racers; that's the audio portion. In the cafe racer class, enthusiasts endure this self-abuse to get the substance and effect of a gen-yoo-wine racer. If the drugstore racer accelerates, brakes, handles.—and looks—like the next of kin to a factory racer, the owner will revel down the road far fifty miles on Sunday, and happily see his chiropractor on Monday Who cares if the bike can only wall down twisting backcountry roads. That's the point.
Internally, the engine lost some pedigreed racing parts in the interest of fast roadwork Standard Kawasaki street pistons have calmed down the port timing for measure of tractability, which has been aided and abetted by tossing out the 34mm Mikuni carburetors and fitting 28mm instruments in their place. Getting the bike off to a clean and easy start has been made easier by the switch. By substituting the H1's lower first gear for the racing box's tall number-one the use of the kickstarter had been facilitated. Yes, the engine will light off with the lever after about four stabs. Those showy heave-ho-and-into-the-saddle-sideways acrobatic starting exercises arc strictly optional.
A little clutch slipping is still required to get underway, but in Furlong's "stratified" engine, a standard Kawasaki H1 wet Dutch carries the power to the gearbox. He removed the dry clutch, as fitted to the H1R, so that the recast racer would have the longer-lasting, more serviceable wet clutch. Moreover, the dry clutch assembly, which spun out in the airstream, wasn't exactly the clean setup for street riding.
While the parts swapping was going on inside the engine, Furlong added an entire electrical system. The lights, horn—indeed, the whole system is straight out of the Kawasaki parts book. While installing the electrical equipment didn't pose any staggering problems, there were a number of little headaches. For example, the places in which components fit on a standard H1 don't exist on an H1R. So Furlong created places. The battery lives in the rear portion of the seat along with the CDI black boxes and oil tank; twisting two Dzus fasteners will drop the battery to hand. Furlong grafted on the taillight and incorporated the headlamp behind the plexiglass nose of the fairing, Because he used the standard 500 Kawasaki CDI ignition system, which fits on the right-hand side of the engine, Furlong had to modify further the late Team Hansen fairing and fabricate a blister "And that," says the builder, "was really a pain."
The gas tank and seat are likewise Team Hansen components which have been reworked. The works tank no longer carries the jet-fill hardware in its side. American service stations never operate like a Hansen pit crew anyway. Besides, idle hands, pressing at the wrong time and wrong place on the orifice-plate, could release a mini-gusher. Instead of the jet-fill, the tank now models a plexiglass window on one side. If nothing else, this huge gas-tank sight glass works as a conversation piece at the local gasoline pumps. The bike is fueled through a cap on the tank's vent system. The tank remains quickly detachable. It's secured to the bike by a rubber strap, and the fuel lines have quick-release stainless steel couplings. In truth, Furlong's device has quick-releases all over. The fairing can be yanked off in short order because it mounts by means of quarter-turn cam-locks. And so does the rear fender and chainguard. Less tricky is the genuine chopper sidestand. Nevertheless, the stand doesn't ground, and that's important considering how far over the bike can be cranked when it's really thrashing along. The running gear is calibrated for road racing. The engine has been lowered one inch in the frame a la Team Hansen. The front suspension and cycle parts are pretty international. Gone are the original Kawasaki H1R forks. Heavy-duty Ceriani road-racing forks fill their slots, and these particular Italian forks stopped by Colin Seeley's place in England for a bit of British tuning. The Italian 250mm four-shoe front brake can stop the bike faster than anything short of divine intervention. Rear wheel control is a little less elaborate; Koni shock absorbers operating with 70 to 100 springs. The bike rolls on Dunlop Road racing tires. The T-l compound should deliver "long" life by racing standards. Which is to say that you should never be caught out on this bike without a Dunlop credit card.
What passes for a muffling system consists of J&R silencers welded on the ends of standard H1R expansion chambers. As a carryover from practice, everything that can be safety-wired has been so secured. Other roadracing holdovers include Dunlop racing tires.
Any machine like this one demands certain things from its owner, starting with physical fitness and ending with a healthy bankroll. Understand that there are no air cleaners, so those Dunlop tires had better keep the rider out of the trenches. Understand that the exhausts are H1RA expansion chambers with J&R silencers welded on. It should be clear that you could not go in Wednesday night prayer meetings on this machine. And should your local constabulary not be stone deaf, you'll be on a first-name basis with the traffic court judge.
The owner will already know the financial hierarchy in his community. The Furlong Kawasaki is price-tagged at $3,800. Cal Ruderman, who owns the Prime Rib restaurant-bar in Princeton, New Jersey, took the hike off Furlong's hands, and a lot of booze and beef went across the counter to collect the Kawasaki. Though Furlong poured a tremendous amount of effort into this particular project, he's game to do it again. At nearly $4000, there are bank vaults that come cheaper, but they aren't close for fun.
Furlong's creation is a limited machine, just as pure as bright Sunday morning on an empty winding road, just as narrow as a brief moment at 130 mph, just as intense as a helmetful of outrageous clatter, and just as limited as hurtling through a corner flat out. "Every time I ride it," says Furlong, "my chemistry changes. It is all the good feelings in the world in one."